I had a list of requirements for my dog.
It had to be small.
I did the Googling, looked up breeds, looked up anything I could. It was the years right after Paris Hilton and her crew carried around their dogs in bags but pre-Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
I don’t regret this, although I think my dog needed therapy after wearing it a few times.
I wanted a small dog. One that could be trained. One that would do well with a baby. Didn’t want a big smelly dog and I hate getting licked by big dogs a lot.
I, like so many other at that time, decided on a chihuahua.
I started watching rescues, 1-800-Adopt-a-Pet and refreshing the county website regularly. I saw it over and over. The small dogs. Always timid. Not good with other animals. Not good with children. But I thought I could train one to be confident, keep it in the right environment.
I lost my heart a few times to find out it wouldn’t be the dog for me, so I turned to buying one.
Oh, that word. it was awkward coming from someone who’s pets had mostly come from someone dumping it off in the field next door. My childhood dog had been found in our yard hiding and scared.
But I had a bigger duty. I knew we’d have kids someday, and I needed the dog that was going to be our pet for many of those years needed to be kid-friendly. Needed to be taught to behave around them.
So I turned to Google again, this time for breeders.
My mom’s dog is a natural sheepherder. She gets her practice shepherding cats and small children.
Chihuahua breeders were not hard to find. many pages littered with pictures on pink pages, tiny puppies snuggled in cutesy blankets, the words ‘teacup’ and ‘fawn’ scrawled everywhere.
FYI- ‘fawn and ‘teacup’ chihuahuas are not separate breeds- there is only one breed- chihuahua. The terms have come to describe characteristics that have been bred in- a small body size of a delicate bone structure.
But there usually was no way to come see the dogs except for their mini portrait sessions, and it was hard to find a breeder close enough for me to drive to look at them.
And many breeders were specializing in the ‘teacup variety- cute enough but too delicate to be around a small child.
So I took the next step.
We’d known the local pet store owner for many years through our family business. I told her what I was looking for and started checking the store on a regular basis- she got puppies in often enough, but only a couple at a time.
When I finally fell in love, Daisy was small enough to fit in my hand, snuggly and calm. We took her home at 9 weeks, put her in obedience classes, had her fixed (at 7 pounds, she is kind of small to be a mother safely)
Chihuahuas hate sitting on cold floors. Hence, for many of her dog classes at the cold Pet Smart store we had her sitting on a soft mat so she would obey commands.
I’ve had to hide the fact that my dog was bought, let alone came from a pet store. Sitting at a dog park with dogs of various attitudes, I just answered that Daisy was ‘a gift from my mom (which she was) while people extolled their adoptions of their dogs. I learned quick about being honest the first time and practically being drummed out of the park. I hated being judged as a dog owner even though I had a well mannered and well taken care of pet.
Purchasing a dog should not be a shameful thing. It is a way of ensuring that you are getting what you want- a certain dog you will keep its whole life. It is important, however, that your do it right.
This is my advice for purchasing a pet.
Do your research. Just because the dog is so cute in the movie does not mean it will be a good family dog. Chihuahuas, honestly, are not always a good choice. I would not advise bringing in a small puppy into a house with small children- mine has a permanent injury from falling out of someone’s arms her first month home. Do a lot of research, hunt down owners and ask questions.
Do not support those pet stores at the mall with the cute puppies in the window. I hate those suckers. I hate seeing the bigger dogs stuck there for months (you can tell by their ages) and I can promise you they will be hard to potty train because they were stuck soiling their small space for a long time. I can promise that because I know two different people who bought medium or large breed dogs from one of those stores and they were never fully house trained.
If you buy puppy, you pay for the cute. My dog took three months to fully house train. THREE MONTHS. That’s normal. I heard of a girl who had to give a puppy back because her mom was frustrated her small dog still not housebroken in a week. Puppies are cute but you are responsible for a lot more than oohing and aahing. My favorite read in the early days was Chihuahuas for Dummies.
Go see the breeder. I was lucky enough with the shop owner that I trusted where she got her puppies. My mom got a collie a couple years ago from a local breeder and they were very open about their dog’s care and let her look around- they let their dogs come in the house and sleep on the furniture. If they only let you see pictures and don’t want you to come look at where the dogs are kept, walk away.
Papers don’t necessarily mean anything. Just because it is registered doesn’t mean it is a good example of the breed or bred responsibly. It’s just means it’s purebred.
There is nothing really wrong with wanting a papered pet, and some breeders will help you show them if you want that (we considered it with my mom’s dog, who does have papers.) While organizations like the American Kennel Club will investigate substantiated and documented complaints and also performs random checks on some breeders every year, there are still irresponsible breeders that sell papered puppies.
In conclusion- educate yourself about what kind of dog you want and only buy from someone responsible and open. But don’t forget- about one in four dogs in pounds are purebred!
Have you purchased a dog or considered it? What drove your choice?
ESPECIALLY if you are considering buying a dog, please go to the Humane Society of the United States’ page about puppy mills and educate yourself! you can also sign their pledge to help stop puppy mills here.
May 6 to 12 is “Puppy Mill Action Week.” Thousands of mother dogs are suffering in puppy mills, spending their lives in cramped wire cages, often with barely enough food and water to stay alive. Please keep these mothers in mind as Mother’s Day approaches. At the HSUS we need your help to put an end to puppy mills.
This post was written for Charitable Influence’s campaign with the Humane Society of the United States. I received no compensation for writing this post other than a passion for finding a lifelong pet in responsible ways.